If It Has Never Been Missing, You Don't Miss It

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I just watched a movie with my wife called An American Rhapsody. It was not my kind of movie, really. Sort of slow-moving and emotional. But it was a great demonstration of an important principle. It's a true story of a family that escapes Communist Hungary in 1950. They escape with one of their daughters but they can't take their infant daughter because they have to sneak out of their country, and babies make noise.

For six years they tried to get their baby, and finally succeeded. But of course, the child was being raised by somebody all that time. As it turned out, she was raised by two very kind, very loving people.

So Suzy, the American name for the girl, shows up at six years old in America to live with her family in a nice neighborhood and it's a whole new world for her. From that point on she grows up feeling out of place, alienated, and she misses "home." At fifteen years old, she convinces her parents to at least visit Hungary.

When she gets to Hungary, she finds out what life is like behind the Iron Curtain, something her parents have gone out of their way not to tell her about.

She discovers that people in Hungary don't have enough of anything. They can't get what they want. People try very insistently to buy her blue jeans off of her, because those are hard to come by. The couple who raised her for the first six years of her life now live in a small apartment because five years ago the government took their little farm so someone in the government could use it for a summer home.

She visits her mother's mother and finds out why her parents moved away — because one day Suzy's mother, grandmother and grandfather were sitting in a cafe when a Russian soldier came over to the table and manhandled Suzy's mother. The grandfather stood up to defend her, and the soldier shot him dead.

Suzy learned a lot on her visit to Hungary and decided to go back to America to stay.

She walked her grandmother back to what used to be a beautiful house. Her grandmother's house. Now there were fifteen families living there with her grandmother. Government's orders.

Suzy came back to America a changed person.

How I wish many more young people could have a similar experience. So many young people have the same kind of unappreciative rebelliousness and even hatred for their country that Suzy had before her trip. They have no understanding of how much freedom and equality they enjoy because they've never been without it. So they take it completely for granted.

I can't say I was much different at fifteen. But by the time someone is twenty-five, they should damn well know better.

I know full well America is not perfect. But to despise the government and to hate our culture can only be done from a profound ignorance of the world as it is and as it has been through history.

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